The Valet's Tragedy, by Andrew Lang

VII. THE VOICES OF JEANNE D’ARC

Some of our old English historians write of Jeanne d’Arc, the Pucelle, as ‘the Puzel.’ The author of the ‘First Part of Henry VI.,’ whether he was Shakespeare or not, has a pun on the word:

‘Pucelle or puzzel, dolphin or dogfish,’

the word ‘Puzzel’ carrying an unsavoury sense. (Act I. Scene 4.) A puzzle, in the usual meaning of the word, the Maid was to the dramatist. I shall not enter into the dispute as to whether Shakespeare was the author, or part author, of this perplexed drama. But certainly the role of the Pucelle is either by two different hands, or the one author was ‘in two minds’ about the heroine. Now she appears as la ribaulde of Glasdale’s taunt, which made her weep, as the ‘bold strumpet’ of Talbot’s insult in the play. The author adopts or even exaggerates the falsehoods of Anglo–Burgundian legend. The personal purity of Jeanne was not denied by her judges. On the other hand the dramatist makes his ‘bold strumpet’ a paladin of courage and a perfect patriot, reconciling Burgundy to the national cause by a moving speech on ‘the great pity that was in France.’ How could a ribaulde, a leaguer-lass, a witch, a sacrificer of blood to devils, display the valour, the absolute self-sacrifice, the eloquent and tender love of native land attributed to the Pucelle of the play? Are there two authors, and is Shakespeare one of them, with his understanding of the human heart? Or is there one puzzled author producing an impossible and contradictory character?

The dramatist has a curious knowledge of minute points in Jeanne’s career: he knows and mocks at the sword with five crosses which she found, apparently by clairvoyance, at Fierbois, but his history is distorted and dislocated almost beyond recognition. Jeanne proclaims herself to the Dauphin as the daughter of a shepherd, and as a pure maid. Later she disclaims both her father and her maidenhood. She avers that she was first inspired by a vision of the Virgin (which she never did in fact), and she is haunted by ‘fiends,’ who represent her St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret. After the relief of Orleans the Dauphin exclaims:

‘No longer on Saint Denis will we cry,
But Joan la Pucelle shall be France’s saint,’

a prophecy which may yet be accomplished. Already accomplished is d’Alencon’s promise:

‘We’ll set thy statue in some holy place.’

To the Duke of Burgundy, the Pucelle of the play speaks as the Maid might have spoken:

‘Look on thy country, look on fertile France,
And see the cities and the towns defaced
By wasting ruin of the cruel foe!
As looks the mother on her lowly babe,
When death doth close his tender dying eyes,
See, see, the pining malady of France;
Behold the wounds, the most unnatural wounds,
Which thou thyself hast given her woful breast!
O turn thy edged sword another way;
Strike those that hurt, and hurt not those that help!
One drop of blood drawn from thy country’s bosom
Should grieve thee more than streams of foreign gore;
Return thee, therefore, with a flood of tears,
And wash away thy country’s stained spots.’

Patriotism could find no better words, and how can the dramatist represent the speaker as a ‘strumpet’ inspired by ‘fiends’? To her fiends when they desert her, the Pucelle of the play cries:

‘Cannot my body, nor blood sacrifice,
Entreat you to your wonted furtherance?
Then take my soul; my body, soul, and all,
Before that England give the French the foil.’

She is willing to give body and soul for France, and this, in the eyes of the dramatist, appears to be her crime. For a French girl to bear a French heart is to stamp her as the tool of devils. It is an odd theology, and not in the spirit of Shakespeare. Indeed the Pucelle, while disowning her father and her maidenhood, again speaks to the English as Jeanne might have spoken:

‘I never had to do with wicked spirits:
But you, that are polluted with your lusts,
Stained with the guiltless blood of innocents,
Corrupt and tainted with a thousand vices,
Because you want the grace that others have,
You judge it straight a thing impossible
To compass wonders but by help of devils.
No, misconceiv’d! Joan of Arc hath been
A virgin from her tender infancy,
Chaste and immaculate in very thought;
Whose maiden blood, thus rigorously effus’d,
Will cry for vengeance at the gates of heaven.’

The vengeance was not long delayed. ‘The French and my countrymen,’ writes Patrick Abercromby, ‘drove the English from province to province, and from town to town’ of France, while on England fell the Wars of the Roses. But how can the dramatist make the dealer with fiends speak as the Maid, in effect, did speak at her trial? He adds the most ribald of insults; the Pucelle exclaiming:

‘It was Alencon that enjoyed my love!’

The author of the play thus speaks with two voices: in one Jeanne acts and talks as she might have done (had she been given to oratory); in the other she is the termagant of Anglo–Burgundian legend or myth.

Much of this perplexity still haunts the histories of the Maid. Her courage, purity, patriotism, and clear-sighted military and political common-sense; the marvellous wisdom of her replies to her judges — as of her own St. Catherine before the fifty philosophers of her legend — are universally acknowledged. This girl of seventeen, in fact, alone of the French folk, understood the political and military situation. To restore the confidence of France it was necessary that the Dauphin should penetrate the English lines to Rheims, and there be crowned. She broke the lines, she led him to Rheims, and crowned him. England was besieging his last hold in the north and centre, Orleans, on a military policy of pure ‘bluff.’ The city was at no time really invested. The besieging force, as English official documents prove, was utterly inadequate to its task, except so far as prestige and confidence gave power. Jeanne simply destroyed and reversed the prestige, and, after a brilliant campaign on the Loire, opened the way to Rheims. The next step was to take Paris, and Paris she certainly would have taken, but the long delays of politicians enabled Beaufort to secure peace with Scotland, under James I., and to throw into Paris the English troops collected for a crusade against the Hussites.207 The Maid, unsupported, if not actually betrayed, failed and was wounded before Paris, and prestige returned for a while to the English party. She won minor victories, was taken at Compiegne (May 1430), and a year later crowned her career by martyrdom. But she had turned the tide, and within the six years of her prophecy Paris returned to the national cause. The English lost, in losing Paris, ‘a greater gage than Orleans.’

207 The Scottish immobility was secured in May–June 1429, the months of the Maid’s Loire campaign. Exchequer Rolls, iv. ciii. 466. Bain, Calendar, iv. 212, Foedera, x. 428,1704–1717.

So much is universally acknowledged, but how did the Maid accomplish her marvels? Brave as she certainly was, wise as she certainly was, beautiful as she is said to have been, she would neither have risked her unparalleled adventure, nor been followed, but for her strange visions and ‘voices.’ She left her village and began her mission, as she said, in contradiction to the strong common-sense of her normal character. She resisted for long the advice that came to her in the apparent shape of audible external voices and external visions of saint and angel. By a statement of actual facts which she could not possibly have learned in any normal way, she overcame, it is said, the resistance of the Governor of Vaucouleurs, and obtained an escort to convey her to the King at Chinon.208 She conquered the doubts of the Dauphin by a similar display of supernormal knowledge. She satisfied, at Poictiers, the divines of the national party after a prolonged examination, of which the record, ‘The Book of Poictiers,’ has disappeared. In these ways she inspired the confidence which, in the real feebleness of the invading army, was all that was needed to ensure the relief of Orleans, while, as Dunois attested, she shook the confidence which was the strength of England. About these facts the historical evidence is as good as for any other events of the war.

208 Refer to paragraph commencing “The ‘Journal du Siege d’Orleans’” infra.

The essence, then, of the marvels wrought by Jeanne d’Arc lay in what she called her ‘Voices,’ the mysterious monitions, to her audible, and associated with visions of the heavenly speakers. Brave, pure, wise, and probably beautiful as she was, the King of France would not have trusted a peasant lass, and men disheartened by frequent disaster would not have followed her, but for her voices.

The science or theology of the age had three possible ways of explaining these experiences:

1. The Maid actually was inspired by Michael, Margaret, and Catherine. From them she learned secrets of the future, of words unspoken save in the King’s private prayer, and of events distant in space, like the defeat of the French and Scots at Rouvray, which she announced, on the day of the occurrence, to Baudricourt, hundreds of leagues away, at Vaucouleurs.

2. The monitions came from ‘fiends.’ This was the view of the prosecutors in general at her trial, and of the author of ‘Henry VI., Part I.’

3. One of her judges, Beaupere, was a man of some courage and consistency. He maintained, at the trial of Rouen, and at the trial of Rehabilitation (1452–1456), that the voices were mere illusions of a girl who fasted much. In her fasts she would construe natural sounds, as of church bells, or perhaps of the wind among woods, into audible words, as Red Indian seers do to this day.

This third solution must and does neglect, or explain by chance occurrence, or deny, the coincidences between facts not normally knowable, and the monitions of the Voices, accepted as genuine, though inexplicable, by M. Quicherat, the great palaeographer and historian of Jeanne.209 He by no means held a brief for the Church; Father Ayroles continually quarrels with Quicherat, as a Freethinker. He certainly was a free thinker in the sense that he was the first historian who did not accept the theory of direct inspiration by saints (still less by fiends), and yet took liberty to admit that the Maid possessed knowledge not normally acquired. Other ‘freethinking’ sympathisers with the heroine have shuffled, have skated adroitly past and round the facts, as Father Ayroles amusingly demonstrates in his many passages of arms with Michelet, Simeon Luce, Henri Martin, Fabre, and his other opponents. M. Quicherat merely says that, if we are not to accept the marvels as genuine, we must abandon the whole of the rest of the evidence as to Jeanne d’Arc, and there he leaves the matter.

209 Quicherat’s five volumes of documents, the Proces, is now accessible, as far as records of the two trials go, in the English version edited by Mr. Douglas Murray.

Can we not carry the question further? Has the psychological research of the last half-century added nothing to our means of dealing with the problem? Negatively, at least, something is gained. Science no longer avers, with M. Lelut in his book on the Daemon of Socrates, that every one who has experience of hallucinations, of impressions of the senses not produced by objective causes, is mad. It is admitted that sane and healthy persons may have hallucinations of lights, of voices, of visual appearances. The researches of Mr. Galton, of M. Richet, of Brierre du Boismont, of Mr. Gurney, and an army of other psychologists, have secured this position.

Maniacs have hallucinations, especially of voices, but all who have hallucinations are not maniacs. Jeanne d’Arc, so subject to ‘airy tongues,’ was beyond all doubt a girl of extraordinary physical strength and endurance, of the highest natural lucidity and common-sense, and of health which neither wounds, nor fatigue, nor cruel treatment, could seriously impair. Wounded again and again, she continued to animate the troops by her voice, and was in arms undaunted next day. Her leap of sixty feet from the battlements of Beaurevoir stunned but did not long incapacitate her. Hunger, bonds, and the protracted weariness of months of cross-examination produced an illness but left her intellect as keen, her courage as unabated, her humour as vivacious, her memory as minutely accurate as ever. There never was a more sane and healthy human being. We never hear that, in the moments of her strange experiences, she was ‘entranced,’ or even dissociated from the actual occurrences of the hour. She heard her voices, though not distinctly, in the uproar of the brawling court which tried her at Rouen; she saw her visions in the imminent deadly breach, when she rallied her men to victory. In this alertness she is a contrast to a modern seeress, subject, like her, to monitions of an hallucinatory kind, but subject during intervals of somnambulisme. To her case, which has been carefully, humorously, and sceptically studied, we shall return.

Meantime let us take voices and visions on the lowest, most prevalent, and least startling level. A large proportion of people, including the writer, are familiar with the momentary visions beheld with shut eyes between waking and sleeping (illusions hypnagogiques). The waking self is alert enough to contemplate these processions of figures and faces, these landscapes too, which (in my own case) it is incapable of purposefully calling up.

Thus, in a form of experience which is almost as common as ordinary dreaming, we see that the semi-somnolent self possesses a faculty not always given to the waking self. Compared with my own waking self, for instance, my half-asleep self is almost a personality of genius. He can create visions that the waking self can remember, but cannot originate, and cannot trace to any memory of waking impressions. These apparently trivial things thus point to the existence of almost wholly submerged potentialities in a mind so everyday, commonplace, and, so to speak, superficial as mine. This fact suggests that people who own such minds, the vast majority of mankind, ought not to make themselves the measure of the potentialities of minds of a rarer class, say that of Jeanne d’Arc. The secret of natures like hers cannot be discovered, so long as scientific men incapable even of ordinary ‘visualising’ (as Mr. Galton found) make themselves the canon or measure of human nature.

Let us, for the sake of argument, suppose that some sane persons are capable of hallucinatory impressions akin to but less transient than illusions hypnagogiques, when, as far as they or others can perceive, they are wide awake. Of such sane persons Goethe and Herschel were examples. In this way we can most easily envisage, or make thinkable by ourselves, the nature of the experiences of Jeanne d’Arc and other seers.

In the other state of semi-somnolence, while still alert enough to watch and reason on the phenomena, we occasionally, though less commonly, hear what may be called ‘inner voices.’ That is to say, we do not suppose that any one from without is speaking to us, but we hear, as it were, a voice within us making some remark, usually disjointed enough, and not suggested by any traceable train of thought of which we are conscious at the time. This experience partly enables us to understand the cases of sane persons who, when to all appearance wide awake, occasionally hear voices which appear to be objective and caused by actual vibrations of the atmosphere. I am acquainted with at least four persons, all of them healthy, and normal enough, who have had such experiences. In all four cases, the apparent voice (though the listeners have no superstitious belief on the subject) has communicated intelligence which proved to be correct. But in only one instance, I think, was the information thus communicated beyond the reach of conjecture, based perhaps on some observation unconsciously made or so little attended to when made that it could not be recalled by the ordinary memory.

We are to suppose, then, that in such cases the person concerned being to all appearance fully awake, his or her mind has presented a thought, not as a thought, but in the shape of words that seemed to be externally audible. One hearer, in fact, at the moment wondered that the apparent speaker indicated by the voice and words should be shouting so loud in an hotel. The apparent speaker was actually not in the hotel, but at a considerable distance, well out of earshot, and, though in a nervous crisis, was not shouting at all. We know that, between sleeping and waking, our minds can present to us a thought in the apparent form of articulate words, internally audible. The hearers, when fully awake, of words that seem to be externally audible, probably do but carry the semi-vigilant experience to a higher degree, as do the beholders of visual hallucinations, when wide awake. In this way, at least, we can most nearly attain to understanding their experiences. To a relatively small proportion of people, in wakeful existence, experiences occur with distinctness, which to a large proportion of persons occur but indistinctly,

‘On the margin grey
‘Twixt the soul’s night and day.’

Let us put it, then, that Jeanne d’Arc’s was an advanced case of the mental and bodily constitution exemplified by the relatively small proportion of people, the sane seers of visual hallucinations and hearers of unreal voices. Her thoughts — let us say the thoughts of the deepest region of her being — presented themselves in visual forms, taking the shapes of favourite saints — familiar to her in works of sacred art — attended by an hallucinatory brightness of light (‘a photism’), and apparently uttering words of advice which was in conflict with Jeanne’s great natural shrewdness and strong sense of duty to her parents. ‘She MUST go into France,’ and for two or three years she pleaded her ignorance and incompetence. She declined to go. She COULD resist her voices. In prison at Beaurevoir, they forbade her to leap from the tower. But her natural impatience and hopefulness prevailed, and she leaped. ‘I would rather trust my soul to God than my body to the English.’ This she confessed to as sinful, though not, she hoped, of the nature of deadly sin. Her inmost and her superficial nature were in conflict.

It is now desirable to give, as briefly as possible, Jeanne’s own account of the nature of her experiences, as recorded in the book of her trial at Rouen, with other secondhand accounts, offered on oath, at her trial of Rehabilitation, by witnesses to whom she had spoken on the subject. She was always reticent on the theme.

The period when Jeanne supposed herself to see her first visions was physiologically critical. She was either between thirteen and fourteen, or between twelve and thirteen. M. Simeon Luce, in his ‘Jeanne d’Arc a Domremy,’ held that she was of the more advanced age, and his date (1425) fitted in with some public events, which, in his opinion, were probably the occasions of the experiences. Pere Ayroles prefers the earlier period (1424) when the aforesaid public events had not yet occurred. After examining the evidence on both sides, I am disposed to think, or rather I am certain, that Pere Ayroles is in the right. In either case Jeanne was at a critical age, when, as I understand, female children are occasionally subject to illusions. Speaking then as a non-scientific student, I submit that on the side of ordinary causes for the visions and voices we have:

1. The period in Jeanne’s life when they began.

2. Her habits of fasting and prayer.

3. Her intense patriotic enthusiasm, which may, for all that we know, have been her mood before the voices announced to her the mission.

Let us then examine the evidence as to the origin and nature of the alleged phenomena.

I shall begin with the letter of the Senechal de Berry, Perceval de Boulainvilliers, to the Duke of Milan.210 The date is June 21st, 1429, six weeks after the relief of Orleans. After a few such tales as that the cocks crowed when Jeanne was born, and that her flock was lucky, he dates her first vision peractis aetatis suae duodecim annis, ‘after she was twelve.’ Briefly, the tale is that, in a rustic race for flowers, one of the other children cried, ‘Joanna, video te volantem juxta terrain,’ ‘Joan, I see you flying near the ground.’ This is the one solitary hint of ‘levitation’ (so common in hagiology and witchcraft) which occurs in the career of the Maid. This kind of story is so persistent that I knew it must have been told in connection with the Irvingite movement in Scotland. And it was! There is, perhaps, just one trace that flying was believed to be an accomplishment of Jeanne’s. When Frere Richard came to her at Troyes, he made, she says, the sign of the cross.211 She answered, ‘Approchez hardiment, je ne m’envouleray pas.’ Now the contemporary St. Colette was not infrequently ‘levitated’!

210 Proces, v. 115.

211 Proces, i. 100.

To return to the Voices. After her race, Jeanne was quasi rapta et a sensibus alienata (‘dissociated’), then juxta eam affuit juvenis quidam, a youth stood by her who bade her ‘go home, for her mother needed her.’

‘Thinking that it was her brother or a neighbour’ (apparently she only heard the voice, and did not see the speaker), she hurried home, and found that she had not been sent for. Next, as she was on the point of returning to her friends, ‘a very bright cloud appeared to her, and out of the cloud came a voice,’ bidding her take up her mission. She was merely puzzled, but the experiences were often renewed. This letter, being contemporary, represents current belief, based either on Jeanne’s own statements before the clergy at Poictiers (April 1429) or on the gossip of Domremy. It should be observed that till Jeanne told her own tale at Rouen (1431) we hear not one word about saints or angels. She merely spoke of ‘my voices,’ ‘my counsel,’ ‘my Master.’ If she was more explicit at Poictiers, her confessions did not find their way into surviving letters and journals, not even into the journal of the hostile Bourgeois de Paris. We may glance at examples.

The ‘Journal du Siege d’Orleans’ is in parts a late document, in parts ‘evidently copied from a journal kept in presence of the actual events.’212 The ‘Journal,’ in February 1429, vaguely says that, ‘about this time’ our Lord used to appear to a maid, as she was guarding her flock, or ‘cousant et filant.’ A St. Victor MS. has courant et saillant (running and jumping), which curiously agrees with Boulainvilliers. The ‘Journal,’ after telling of the Battle of the Herrings (February 12th, 1429), in which the Scots and French were cut up in an attack on an English convoy, declares that Jeanne ‘knew of it by grace divine,’ and that her vue a distance induced Baudricourt to send her to the Dauphin.213 This was attested by Baudricourt’s letters.214

212 Quicherat. In Proces, iv. 95.

213 Proces, iv. 125.

214 Proces, iv. 125.

All this may have been written as late as 1468, but a vague reference to an apparition of our Lord rather suggests contemporary hearsay, before Jeanne came to Orleans. Jeanne never claimed any such visions of our Lord. The story of the clairvoyance as to the Battle of the Herrings is also given in the ‘Chronique de la Pucelle.’215 M. Quicherat thinks that the passage is amplified from the ‘Journal du Siege.’ On the other hand, M. Vallet (de Viriville) attributes with assurance the ‘Chronique de la Pucelle’ to Cousinot de Montreuil, who was the Dauphin’s secretary at Poictiers, when the Maid was examined there in April 1429.216 If Cousinot was the author, he certainly did not write his chronicle till long after date. However, he avers that the story of clairvoyance was current in the spring of 1429. The dates exactly harmonise; that is to say, between the day of the battle, February 12th, and the setting forth of the Maid from Vaucouleurs, there is just time for the bad news from Rouvray to arrive, confirming her statement, and for a day or two of preparation. But perhaps, after the arrival of the bad news, Baudricourt may have sent Jeanne to the King in a kind of despair. Things could not be worse. If she could do no good, she could do no harm.

215 Proces, iv. 206.

216 Histoire de Charles VII., ii. 62.

The documents, whether contemporary or written later by contemporaries, contain none of the references to visions of St. Margaret, St. Catherine, and St. Michael, which we find in Jeanne’s own replies at Rouen. For this omission it is not easy to account, even if we suppose that, except when giving evidence on oath, the Maid was extremely reticent. That she was reticent, we shall prove from evidence of d’Aulon and Dunois. Turning to the Maid’s own evidence in court (1431) we must remember that she was most averse to speaking at all, that she often asked leave to wait for advice and permission from her voices before replying, that on one point she constantly declared that, if compelled to speak, she would not speak the truth. This point was the King’s secret. There is absolutely contemporary evidence, from Alain Chartier, that, before she was accepted, she told Charles SOMETHING which filled him with surprise, joy, and belief.217 The secret was connected with Charles’s doubts of his own legitimacy, and Jeanne at her trial was driven to obscure the truth in a mist of allegory, as, indeed, she confessed. Jeanne’s extreme reluctance to adopt even this loyal and laudable evasion is the measure of her truthfulness in general. Still, she did say some words which, as they stand, it is difficult to believe, to explain, or to account for. From any other prisoner, so unjustly menaced with a doom so dreadful, from Mary Stuart, for example, at Fotheringay, we do not expect the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The Maid is a witness of another kind, and where we cannot understand her, we must say, like herself, passez outre!

217 Proces, v. 131. Letter of July 1429. See supra, ‘The False Pucelle.’

When she was ‘about thirteen,’ this is her own account, she had a voice from God, to aid her in governing herself. ‘And the first time she was in great fear. And it came, that voice, about noonday, in summer, in her father’s garden’ (where other girls of old France hear the birds sing, ‘Marry, maidens, marry!’) ‘and Jeanne had NOT fasted on the day before.218 She heard the voice from the right side, towards the church, and seldom heard it without seeing a bright light. The light was not in front, but at the side whence the voice came. If she were in a wood’ (as distinguished from the noise of the crowded and tumultuous court) ‘she could well hear the voices coming to her.’ Asked what sign for her soul’s health the voice gave, she said it bade her behave well, and go to church, and used to tell her to go into France on her mission. (I do not know why the advice about going to church is generally said to have been given FIRST.) Jeanne kept objecting that she was a poor girl who could not ride, or lead in war. She resisted the voice with all her energy. She asserted that she knew the Dauphin, on their first meeting, by aid of her voices.219 She declared that the Dauphin himself ‘multas habuit revelationes et apparitiones pulchras.’ In its literal sense, there is no evidence for this, but rather the reverse. She may mean ‘revelations’ through herself, or may refer to some circumstance unknown. ‘Those of my party saw and knew that voice,’ she said, but later would only accept them as witnesses if they were allowed to come and see her.220

218 The reading is NEC not ET, as in Quicherat, Proces, i. 52, compare i. 216.

219 Proces, i. 56.

220 Proces, i. 57.

This is the most puzzling point in Jeanne’s confession. She had no motive for telling an untruth, unless she hoped that these remarks would establish the objectivity of her visions. Of course, one of her strange experiences may have occurred in the presence of Charles and his court, and she may have believed that they shared in it. The point is one which French writers appear to avoid as a rule.

She said that she heard the voice daily in prison, ‘and stood in sore need of it.’ The voice bade her remain at St. Denis (after the repulse from Paris in September 1429), but she was not allowed to remain.

On the next day (the third of the trial) she told Beaupere that she was fasting since yesterday afternoon. Beaupere, as we saw, conceived that her experiences were mere subjective hallucinations, caused by fasting, by the sound of church-bells, and so on. As to the noise of bells, Coleridge writes that their music fell on his ears, ‘MOST LIKE ARTICULATE SOUNDS OF THINGS TO COME.’ Beaupere’s sober common-sense did not avail to help the Maid, but at the Rehabilitation (1456) he still maintained his old opinion. ‘Yesterday she had heard the voices in the morning, at vespers, and at the late ringing for Ave Maria, and she heard them much more frequently than she mentioned.’ ‘Yesterday she had been asleep when the voice aroused her. She sat up and clasped her hands, and the voice bade her answer boldly. Other words she half heard before she was quite awake, but failed to understand.’221

221 Proces, i. 62.

She denied that the voices ever contradicted themselves. On this occasion, as not having received leave from her voices, she refused to say anything as to her visions.

At the next meeting she admitted having heard the voices in court, but in court she could not distinguish the words, owing to the tumult. She had now, however, leave to speak more fully. The voices were those of St. Catherine and St. Margaret. Later she was asked if St. Margaret ‘spoke English.’ Apparently the querist thought that the English Margaret, wife of Malcolm of Scotland, was intended. They were crowned with fair crowns, as she had said at Poictiers two years before. She now appealed to the record of her examination there, but it was not in court, nor was it used in the trial of Rehabilitation. It has never been recovered. A witness who had examined her at Poictiers threw no light (twenty years later) on the saints and voices. Seven years ago (that is, when she was twelve) she first saw the saints. On the attire of the saints she had not leave to speak. They were preceded by St. Michael ‘with the angels of heaven.’ ‘I saw them as clearly as I see you, and I used to weep when they departed, and would fain that they should have taken me with them.’

As to the famous sword at Fierbois, she averred that she had been in the church there, on her way to Chinon, that the voices later bade her use a sword which was hidden under earth — she thinks behind, but possibly in front of the altar — at Fierbois. A man unknown to her was sent from Tours to fetch the sword, which after search was found, and she wore it.

Asked whether she had prophesied her wound by an arrow at Orleans, and her recovery, she said ‘Yes.’

This prediction is singular in that it was recorded before the event. The record was copied into the registre of Brabant, from a letter written on April 22nd, 1429, by a Flemish diplomatist, De Rotselaer, then at Lyons.222 De Rotselaer had the prophecy from an officer of the court of the Dauphin. The prediction was thus noted on April 22nd; the event, the arrow-wound in the shoulder, occurred on May 7th. On the fifth day of the trial Jeanne announced that, before seven years were gone, the English ‘shall lose a dearer gage than Orleans; this I know by revelation, and am wroth that it is to be so long deferred.’ Mr. Myers observes that ‘the prediction of a great victory over the English within seven years was not fulfilled in any exact way.’ The words of the Maid are ‘Angli demittent majus vadium quam fecerunt coram Aurelianis,’ and, as prophecies go, their loss of Paris (1436) corresponds very well to the Maid’s announcement. She went on, indeed, to say that the English ‘will have greater loss than ever they had, through a great French victory,’ but this reads like a gloss on her original prediction. ‘She knew it as well as that we were there.’223 ‘You shall not have the exact year, but well I wish it might be before the St. John;’ however, she had already expressed her sorrow that this was NOT to be. Asked, on March 1st, whether her liberation was promised, she said, ‘Ask me in three months, and I will tell you.’ In three months exactly, her stainless soul was free.

222 Proces, iv. 425.

223 Proces, i. 84.

On the appearance, garb, and so on of her saints, she declined to answer questions.

She had once disobeyed her voices, when they forbade her to leap from the tower of Beaurevoir. She leaped, but they forgave her, and told her that Compiegne (where she was captured on May 23rd, 1430) would be relieved ‘before Martinmas.’ It was relieved on October 26th, after a siege of five months. On March 10th an effort was made to prove that her voices had lied to her, and that she had lied about her voices. The enemy maintained that on May 23rd, 1430, she announced a promised victory to the people of Compiegne, vowing that St. Margaret and St. Catherine had revealed it to her. Two hostile priests of Compiegne were at Rouen, and may have carried this tale, which is reported by two Burgundian chroniclers, but NOT by Monstrelet, who was with the besieging army.224 In court she said n’eust autre commandement de yssir: she had no command from her voices to make her fatal sally. She was not asked whether she had pretended to have received such an order. She told the touching story of how, at Melun, in April 1430, the voices had warned her that she would be taken prisoner before midsummer; how she had prayed for death, or for tidings as to the day and hour. But no tidings were given to her, and her old belief, often expressed, that she ‘should last but one year or little more,’ was confirmed. The Duc d’Alencon had heard her say this several times; for the prophecy at Melun we have only her own word.

224 I have examined the evidence in Macmillan’s Magazine for May 1894, and, to myself, it seems inadequate.

She was now led into the allegory intended to veil the King’s secret, the allegory about the Angel (herself) and the Crown (the coronation at Rheims). This allegory was fatal, but does not bear on her real belief about her experiences. She averred, returning to genuine confessions, that her voices often came spontaneously; if they did not, she summoned them by a simple prayer to God. She had seen the angelic figures moving, invisible save to her, among men. The voices HAD promised her the release of Charles d’Orleans, but time had failed her. This was as near a confession of failure as she ever made, till the day of her burning, if she really made one then.225 But here, as always, she had predicted that she would do this or that if she were sans empeschement. She had no revelation bidding her attack Paris when she did, and after the day at Melun she submitted to the advice of the other captains. As to her release, she was only bidden ‘to bear all cheerfully; be not vexed with thy martyrdom, thence shalt thou come at last into the kingdom of Paradise.’

225 As to her ‘abjuration’ and alleged doubts, see L’Abjuration du Cimetiere Saint–Ouen, by Abbe Ph. H. Dunard; Poussielgue, Paris, 1901.

To us, this is explicit enough, but the poor child explained to her judges that by martire she understood the pains of prison, and she referred it to her Lord, whether there were more to bear. In this passage the original French exists, as well as the Latin translation. The French is better.

‘Ne te chaille de ton martire, tu t’en vendras enfin en royaulme de Paradis.’

‘Non cures de martyrio tuo: tu venies finaliter in regnum paradisi.’

The word hinc is omitted in the bad Latin. Unluckily we have only a fragment of the original French, as taken down in court. The Latin version, by Courcelles, one of the prosecutors, is in places inaccurate, in others is actually garbled to the disadvantage of the Maid.

This passage, with some others, may perhaps be regarded as indicating that the contents of the communications received by Jeanne were not always intelligible to her.

That her saints could be, and were, touched physically by her, she admitted.226 Here I am inclined to think that she had touched with her ring (as the custom was) a RELIC of St. Catherine at Fierbois. Such relics, brought from the monastery of Sinai, lay at Fierbois, and we know that women loved to rub their rings on the ring of Jeanne, in spite of her laughing remonstrances. But apart from this conjecture, she regarded her saints as tangible by her. She had embraced both St. Margaret and St. Catherine.227

226 Proces, i. 185.

227 Proces, i. 186.

For the rest, Jeanne recanted her so-called recantation, averring that she was unaware of the contents or full significance of the document, which certainly is not the very brief writing to which she set her mark. Her voices recalled her to her duty, for them she went to the stake, and if there was a moment of wavering on the day of her doom, her belief in the objective reality of the phenomena remained firm, and she recovered her faith in the agony of her death.

Of EXTERNAL evidence as to her accounts of these experiences, the best is probably that of d’Aulon, the maitre d’Hotel of the Maid, and her companion through her career. He and she were reposing in the same room at Orleans, her hostess being in the chamber (May 1429), and d’Aulon had just fallen asleep, when the Maid awoke him with a cry. Her voices bade her go against the English, but in what direction she knew not. In fact, the French leaders had begun, without her knowledge, an attack on St. Loup, whither she galloped and took the fort.228 It is, of course, conceivable that the din of onset, which presently became audible, had vaguely reached the senses of the sleeping Maid. Her page confirms d’Aulon’s testimony.

228 Proces, iii. 212.

D’Aulon states that when the Maid had any martial adventure in prospect, she told him that her ‘counsel’ had given her this or that advice. He questioned her as to the nature of this ‘counsel.’ She said ‘she had three councillors, of whom one was always with her, a second went and came to her, and the third was he with whom the others deliberated.’ D’Aulon ‘was not worthy to see this counsel.’ From the moment when he heard this, d’Aulon asked no more questions. Dunois also gave some evidence as to the ‘counsel.’ At Loches, when Jeanne was urging the journey to Rheims, Harcourt asked her, before the King, what the nature (modus) of the council was; HOW it communicated with her. She replied that when she was met with incredulity, she went apart and prayed to God. Then she heard a voice say, Fille De, va, va, va, je serai a ton aide, va! ‘And when she heard that voice she was right glad, and would fain be ever in that state.’ ‘As she spoke thus, ipsa miro modo exsultabat, levando suos oculos ad coelum.’229 (She seemed wondrous glad, raising her eyes to heaven.) Finally, that Jeanne maintained her belief to the moment of her death, we learn from the priest, Martin Ladvenu, who was with her to the last.230 There is no sign anywhere that at the moment of an ‘experience’ the Maid’s aspect seemed that of one ‘dissociated,’ or uncanny, or abnormal, in the eyes of those who were in her company.

229 Proces, iii. 12.

230 Proces, iii. 170.

These depositions were given twenty years later (1452–56), and, of course, allowance must be made for weakness of memory and desire to glorify the Maid. But there is really nothing of a suspicious character about them. In fact, the ‘growth of legend’ was very slight, and is mainly confined to the events of the martyrdom, the White Dove, the name of Christ blazoned in flame, and so forth.231 It should also have been mentioned that at the taking of St. Pierre de Moustier (November 1429) Jeanne, when deserted by her forces, declared to d’Aulon that she was ‘not alone, but surrounded by fifty thousand of her own.’ The men therefore rallied and stormed the place.

This is the sum of the external evidence as to the phenomena.

231 For German fables see Lefevre–Pontalis, Les Sources Allemandes, Paris, 1903. They are scanty, and, in some cases, are distortions of real events.

As to the contents of the communications to Jeanne, they were certainly sane, judicious, and heroic. M. Quicherat (Apercus Nouveaux, p. 61) distinguishes three classes of abnormally conveyed knowledge, all on unimpeachable evidence.

(1.) THOUGHT-READING, as in the case of the King’s secret; she repeated to him the words of a prayer which he had made mentally in his oratory.

(2.) CLAIRVOYANCE, as exhibited in the affair of the sword of Fierbois.

(3.) PRESCIENCE, as in the prophecy of her arrow-wound at Orleans. According to her confessor, Pasquerel, she repeated the prophecy and indicated the spot in which she would be wounded (under the right shoulder) on the night of May 6. But this is later evidence given in the trial of Rehabilitation. Neither Pasquerel nor any other of the Maid’s party was heard at the trial of 1431.

To these we might add the view, from Vaucouleurs, a hundred leagues away, of the defeat at Rouvray; the prophecy that she ‘would last but a year or little more;’ the prophecy, at Melun, of her capture; the prophecy of the relief of Compiegne; and the strange affair of the bon conduit at the battle of Pathay.232 For several of these predictions we have only the Maid’s word, but to be plain, we can scarcely have more unimpeachable testimony.

232 Proces, iv. 371, 372. Here the authority is Monstrelet, a Burgundian.

Here the compiler leaves his task: the inferences may be drawn by experts. The old theory of imposture, the Voltairean theory of a ‘poor idiot,’ the vague charge of ‘hysteria,’ are untenable. The honesty and the genius of Jeanne are no longer denied. If hysteria be named, it is plain that we must argue that, because hysteria is accompanied by visionary symptoms, all visions are proofs of hysteria. Michelet holds by hallucinations which were unconsciously externalised by the mind of Jeanne. That mind must have been a very peculiar intellect, and the modus is precisely the difficulty. Henri Martin believes in some kind of manifestation revealed to the individual mind by the Absolute: perhaps this word is here equivalent to ‘the subliminal self’ of Mr. Myers. Many Catholics, as yet unauthorised, I conceive, by the Church, accept the theory of Jeanne herself; her saints were true saints from Paradise. On the other hand it is manifest that visions of a bright light and ‘auditions’ of voices are common enough phenomena in madness, and in the experiences of very uninspired sane men and women. From the sensations of these people Jeanne’s phenomena are only differentiated by their number, by their persistence through seven years of an almost abnormally healthy life, by their importance, orderliness, and veracity, as well as by their heroic character.

Mr. Myers has justly compared the case of Jeanne with that of Socrates. A much humbler parallel, curiously close in one respect, may be cited from M. Janet’s article, ‘Les Actes Inconscients dans le Somnambulisme’ (‘Revue Philosophique,’ March 1888).

The case is that of Madame B., a peasant woman near Cherbourg. She has her common work-a-day personality, called, for convenience, ‘Leonie.’ There is also her hypnotic personality, ‘Leontine.’ Now Leontine (that is, Madame B. in a somnambulistic state) was one day hysterical and troublesome. Suddenly she exclaimed in terror that she heard A VOICE ON THE LEFT, crying, ‘Enough, be quiet, you are a nuisance.’ She hunted in vain for the speaker, who, of course, was inaudible to M. Janet, though he was present. This sagacious speaker (a faculty of Madame B.‘s own nature) is ‘brought out’ by repeated passes, and when this moral and sensible phase of her character is thus evoked, Madame B. is ‘Leonore.’ Madame B. now sometimes assumes an expression of beatitude, smiling and looking upwards. As Dunois said of Jeanne when she was recalling her visions, ‘miro modo exsultabat, levando suos oculos ad coelum.’ This ecstasy Madame B. (as Leonie) dimly remembers, averring that ‘she has been dazzled BY A LIGHT ON THE LEFT SIDE.’ Here apparently we have the best aspect of poor Madame B. revealing itself in a mixture of hysterics and hypnotism, and associating itself with an audible sagacious voice and a dazzling light on the left, both hallucinatory.

The coincidence (not observed by M. Janet) with Jeanne’s earliest experience is most curious. Audivit vocem a dextero latere. . . . claritas est ab eodem latere in quo vox auditur, sed ibi communiter est magna claritas. (She heard a voice from the right. There is usually a bright light on the same side as the voice.) Like Madame B., Jeanne was at first alarmed by these sensations.

The parallel, so far, is perfectly complete (except that ‘Leonore’ merely talks common sense, while Jeanne’s voices gave information not normally acquired). But in Jeanne’s case I have found no hint of temporary unconsciousness or ‘dissociation.’ When strung up to the most intense mental eagerness in court, she still heard her voices, though, because of the tumult of the assembly, she heard them indistinctly. Thus her experiences are not associated with insanity, partial unconsciousness, or any physical disturbance (as in some tales of second sight), while the sagacity of the communications and their veracity distinguish them from the hallucinations of mad people. As far as the affair of Rouvray, the prophecy of the instant death of an insolent soldier at Chinon (evidence of Pasquerel, her confessor), and such things go, we have, of course, many alleged parallels in the predictions of Mr. Peden and other seers of the Covenant. But Mr. Peden’s political predictions are still unfulfilled, whereas concerning the ‘dear gage’ which the English should lose in France within seven years, Jeanne may be called successful.

On the whole, if we explain Jeanne’s experiences as the expressions of her higher self (as Leonore is Madame B.‘s higher self), we are compelled to ask what is the nature of that self?

Another parallel, on a low level, to what may be called the mechanism of Jeanne’s voices and visions is found in Professor Flournoy’s patient, ‘Helene Smith.’233 Miss ‘Smith,’ a hardworking shopwoman in Geneva, had, as a child, been dull but dreamy. At about twelve years of age she began to see, and hear, a visionary being named Leopold, who, in life, had been Cagliostro. His appearance was probably suggested by an illustration in the Joseph Balsamo of Alexandre Dumas. The saints of Jeanne, in the same way, may have been suggested by works of sacred art in statues and church windows. To Miss Smith, Leopold played the part of Jeanne’s saints. He appeared and warned her not to take such or such a street when walking, not to try to lift a parcel which seemed light, but was very heavy, and in other ways displayed knowledge not present to her ordinary workaday self.

233 See Flournoy, Des Indes a la Planete Mars. Alcan, Paris, 1900.

There was no real Leopold, and Jeanne’s St. Catherine cannot be shown to have ever been a real historical personage.234 These figures, in fact, are more or less akin to the ‘invisible playmates’ familiar to many children.235 They are not objective personalities, but part of the mechanism of a certain class of mind. The mind may be that of a person devoid of genius, like Miss Smith, or of a genius like Goethe, Shelley, or Jeanne d’Arc, or Socrates with his ‘Daemon,’ and its warnings. In the case of Jeanne d’Arc, as of Socrates, the mind communicated knowledge not in the conscious everyday intelligence of the Athenian or of la Pucelle. This information, in Jeanne’s case, was presented in the shape of hallucinations of eye and ear. It was sane, wise, noble, veracious, and concerned not with trifles, but with great affairs. We are not encouraged to suppose that saints or angels made themselves audible and visible. But, by the mechanism of such appearances to the senses, that which was divine in the Maid — in all of us, if we follow St. Paul — that ‘in which we live and move and have our being,’ made itself intelligible to her ordinary consciousness, her workaday self, and led her to the fulfilment of a task which seemed impossible to men.

234 See the Life and Martyrdom of St. Katherine of Alexandria. (Roxburghe Club, 1884, Introduction by Mr. Charles Hardwick). Also the writer’s translation of the chapel record of the ‘Miracles of Madame St. Catherine of Fierbois,’ in the Introduction. (London, Nutt.)

235 See the writer’s preface to Miss Corbet’s Animal Land for a singular example in our own time.

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